Tuesday was one of those glorious cool but bright February days. We wrapped up well and caught the bus to pick up a hire car in Kirkwall before driving around the west main island visiting as many historical sites as we could fit in one day.
We headed around the coast to the Broch of Gurness, the well preserved site of a settlement dating back to 1st century BC occupied by Picts and Vikings.
From there we took the coastal route but did not stop at Earl’s Palace, since it was not open, although we observed it from a distance. We wove our way southwards to the sweeping Bay of Skaill, the tide rushing breakers on to its shores.
Skara Brea can be found at its southerly tip – a prehistoric village uncovered by storms, revealing numerous living and working quarters housing quite a large community. It is hard to guess why they would choose to settle in such a bleak spot, where sea wall defenses have recently been built to protect it from further erosion. Even more incredible is that the site is still with us. Many say that you should begin your journey at Skara Brea, the oldest of the sites on this island.
From there it was natural to drive between the lochs. As as the land begins to narrow the Ring of Brodgar stands imposingly on the hillside. The sun was descending as we arrived, a perfect time to walk and wonder about the folk who formed the ring and worshiped there.
There are further standing stones as you reach the narrowest stretch and return to the main road. It was too late to visit Maeshowe, a chambered tomb built before 2,700 BC but we have read about it.
It was not quite dark when we arrived back at Houton Lodge so we took a short detour to see the round Viking Orkney Kirk nearby. We were told that the Viking Centre here is well worth a visit but we will have to leave that pleasure for another visit since tomorrow we move in time through many centuries to the 20th century and WW1 and WW2.